A Sunday Compendium Of Things That Don't Suck
Yr Wonkette has been fairly free of notable deleted comments this week. Sure, turgid love-muscle guy showed up after an absence of a couple months, but his schtick hasn't changed. So instead of our usual Dear Shitferbrains column, we figured we'd just bring you some stuff we've been reading and enjoying instead. Let's recharge our batteries, and then tomorrow we'll dive back into the horrorshow again. And, like, you can all recommend books and teevee and other relief from all the madness too, or at least you could, if Wonkette allowed comments, which we do not.
Twitter Is Not All Garbage! No, Really!
Let's not fool ourselves: Twitter dot com is MOSTLY garbage. But there are some neat reprieves, like historian Kevin Kruse's regular dismantlings of rightwing nonsense, complete with facts and linkies. Here's a thread of his best threads, many of them dunking on the many lies and distortions of Dinesh D'Souza. Plus, he's just generally good at teh funny!
Kruse has become a genuine social media star guy, but let's not pretend he's infallible, as as he graciously admits re. a panel at the annual American Historical Association conference this week:
Honestly, we only posted that to direct your Twitter follows to another terrific historian, Kevin Gannon, who supplements his historical stuff (19th-Century America, Civil War & Reconstruction, Latin America, and history of Capitalism, plus how to improve the teaching of same) with EXCELLENT pics of his large main dog Yoshi and his smaller auxiliary backup dog Lulu:
Yes, Lulu is an adult doggie, a year-and-a half old, not a pupper.
Yoshi, it should be noted, is a mastiff who looks here like a 19th-century Supreme Court justice, and Lulu is a French bulldog who, as someone noted, looks here like a head with legs.
There are many many other historians we've begun following in the last year, and the best thing about Historian Twitter is that it's smart, funny, and you learn stuff. OK, three things. But dang, talk about a relief from the usual awfulness!
Women You Didn't Know About, Probably!
Speaking of history, how about some neat stories this week about women you should probably have heard of, but only in a less patriarchal part of the multiverse. Washington Post's "Retropolis" feature -- always a good read -- brings us a nifty story about Ruth Law, a pioneering aviatrix who set flight records well before Amelia Earhart took her first flying lessons. Law started flying in 1912, and by 1916 had captured a new American distance record, flying from Chicago to New York. When the US entered World War I, Law wanted to go to Europe and drop bombs on the Huns, but no, no lady fighter pilots until 1993 (though women did ferry planes from US factories to airbases -- even all the way to England -- during WWII). Law had to be satisfied with doing promotional stunts for "Liberty Loans." At a Washington DC parade, Law flew a Curtis biplane and dropped paper "bombs" on the crowd:
Law flung her plane into loops over the White House and the State, War, and Navy building, now called the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, just to its west. More loops in front of [President] Wilson, close enough that he could see her wave [...]
Here's a photo of the leaflet she dropped, from the Smithsonian Air and Space museum (OK, she had to drop them from her aeroplane, since the museum hadn't yet been built):
Law kept flying after the war, even putting together her own flying circus of aerial acrobats, but her career came to an abrupt end -- not with a crash, but with an asshole husband, as the Air and Space Museum recounts:
One morning in 1922, however, Law read the announcement of her retirement in the newspaper — her husband, Charles Oliver, could no longer bear his wife's hazardous occupation and simply put an end to her flying career.
Patriarchy: it's why we can't have nice things.
Our other cool woman from history this week is Lois Weber, a film director who in the early days of Hollywood was regularly mentioned as one of the medium's greats, along with D.W. Griffith and Cecil B DeMille. Only instead of doing great big epics about the joys of the KKK or the Bible, Weber tended toward stories about women and social justice stuff:
From early on, she advocated for complex roles for women and for serious engagement with social issues. According to [film scholar Shelley] Stamp, Weber made films about the fight to abolish capital punishment, about drug addiction, about urban poverty, about the campaign to legalize contraception.
Weber took up the cause of young women going to work in her 1916 film Shoes, which has been released by Milestone with a new score.
"She takes on an issue which many social reformers of the day were interested in," Stamp says. "That is: the plight of young women who had entered the paid labor force, were working in the retail sphere — either in department stores or five-and-dime stores — and were woefully underpaid. Many of them were supporting themselves, living on their own in urban centers, or the primary wage earners in their family, as the heroine of Shoes is." [Link to Stamp's book on Weber added -- Dok]
Give a listen to NPR's story on Weber and the painstaking process of reconstructing two of her most important films!
Sadly, most of Weber's 138 films have been lost, mostly because patriarchy -- who cares about lady movies? Also, much of her work -- among TONS of unstable nitrate film stock -- went up in smoke in a fire at Universal in the 1940s. Milestone Films has released two Weber films, Shoes, a gritty tale about a poor woman who prostitutes herself to buy new shoes, and The Dumb Girl of Portici (that's "dumb" as in mute), starring Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. Darn it, they're only available on DVD/Blu-Ray, not on any streaming services we could see. We may just go buy 'em anyway! (Note from Robyn: Lois Weber is one of my all time favorite humans and she was far better than Griffith ever was. Also, another very cool thing about her is that she refused to do an adaptation of Topsy and Eva that was super racist. They got Griffith to do it. Naturally. You can also watch one of her movies "Where Are My Children?" on YouTube. It's pro-birth control/ anti-abortion, but mostly because abortions done in back alleys were not safe. I could probably talk about her for HOURS and have, but will let you get back to the listicle.)
Check out this excellent longread at Wired about a meteorite that fell on tribal lands in a mountainous region in Peru in 2007. It was a huge scientific find, but first it had to be recovered from the 20-foot crater it had made -- which had filled up with groundwater. Oh, yes, and the meteorite was made of space stuff that tends to dissolve.
Joshuah Bearman and Allison Keeley present a thoughtful reflection on the conflicts among science, politics, and profit, profiling the the local Aymara people, Peruvian officials who may or may not have had Aymara interests in mind, and two meteorite hunters who wanted to recover the thing for science -- and also the highest bidder, not incidentally. No spoilers -- this is a hell of a story.
Pooping, Magic, and Castles
A two-year-old article on JK Rowling's Pottermore website resurfaced this week, triggering a nerdstorm about how wizards and witches in the Potterverse pooped before modern plumbing. It's all Pottermore's fault, thanks to these here tweets:
This raised some very sensible question on the Twitters. Why anyone would just unload in their pants and then magic it away -- presumably in the middle of a Defense against the Dark Arts lecture? Where did the magical poo go? Is conservation of mass even a thing in magic? (Terry Pratchett touched on that, noting that turning someone into a frog would have to leave a lot of free-floating former-person behind, and it would have to be stored somewhere pending the victim's being kissed).
Of course, that nerdy speculation also resulted in this brilliant thread about how actual castles managed poo, and lordy was it GROSS. And as ever, the diaries of Samuel Pepys still speak to our modern times:
"She" here is not Rowling, but rather Eleanor Herman, in The Royal Art of Poison: Filthy Palaces, Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicine, and Murder Most Foul. As ever, history is AMAZING. And soiled. Also, we are going to make sure we add "the House of Office" to our catalog of privy euphemisms, along with "the Seat of Ease," which we picked up from the AMC series "The Terror."
Finally, just for the hell of it, Robyn informs us in the Sekrit Chatcave that this happened. Although we aren't sure it's actually a nice thing, it's definitely a funny thing: Police in Ironton, Ohio found a box of illegal drugs in the local library. It's kind of a surprise the police even found the container, given its ingenious disguise:
Oh, golly, looks like we had a shitferbrains this week after all!
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.